If I tell you that I’m talking about one person here, you may think I’m just making a sweeping statement. On the other hand, if you have spent much time reading HIP you will have an idea just how diverse a population this “sleepy sea-side town” town attracts.

Let’s begin with the sweep. Do you have a mental image of a soot-laden chap with a chirpy grin? Chim-chimeny? You’ll need to adapt. There are an increasing number of women taking up this profession and Hastings, of course, now has its very own lady chimney sweep. Katy Kiteley has gone through several fiery transformations. She started her career as a jeweller, with a degree from Central St. Martins where she did a great deal of welding, forging of precious metals and hair singeing. But after a few years freelancing and working on commission, she took a job as a van driver for the Spanish food company Brindisa. She enjoyed driving and travelled UK-wide to the numerous restaurants and retail outlets the company supplied with its hams, cheeses, chorizos and spices. In time she became Senior Sales Executive for the company, a post she held for many years, managing a large team and client base.

So, what were the vital sparks which changed her into a sweep and brought her to Hastings? One spark was Jez, who owns the Queens Deli and was a client of Brindisa. A friend of his gave her the keys to a flat here for a holiday. That was the falling in love moment. She has family ties here too and was soon working on a way to escape the Big Smoke. The second spark came from Sasha Meding who came to service her wood burning stove one day and recognised in her the unique qualities that make a good sweep.

Katy has cleaned more than 300 chimneys since she started training 5 months ago, but says each day is still a learning day. The course has been intensive with theory tests in building regs and construction (she got 100%) and a rigorous 7 chimneys a day practical of 5 weeks. 

 “After the first 2 days every part of my body ached, but after a week I thought. ‘Yes! I can do this!’ And I lost 3 inches off my waist!”

Her business (Stova Sussex) is a franchise of the parent company Stova, set up by Sasha Medling in 2010 to professionalise UK sweeps and promote good practice. Stova supports its franchisees to the hilt. Even after their rigorous training, Katy can call at any time for advice while she is working. With so many different chimney structures and strange building practices it’s essential to be able to draw on the combined experience of the Stova team. They specialise in stoves which are approved by DEFRA for wood burning (for those in smoke free areas) and cover all aspects of installation and after care as well as pursuing policies of sustainability and care for the environment. And attendance at weddings. I had a long and very delightful interview with Katy. Take it from me; she’s all fired up and ready to go.

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